Cover story: Book binding in the age of online education and publishing

With the shift to online studying in 2020, most college students in India might have began the new educational yr with out one of their hottest rituals — a visit to the e-book binder.

Meant to guard textbooks not simply from the parts but in addition from tough dealing with by its customers, hardcover binding has been a staple of college life. But in a commerce taken over by mechanisation, e-book binders have needed to adapt to new market necessities by updating their technique of working. “The new academic year in schools and colleges is perhaps the only really profitable time for book binders these days,” says Subhash Chandran, whose Sree Meenakshi Printers in Kelambakkam, Chennai, provides fashionable and cheaper choices like spiral and good binding together with the conventional hardcover selection, principally to highschool and school college students.

Manual binding of administrative information was the norm in sectors reminiscent of banking, insurance coverage, cars, judiciary and so on earlier than digital archiving led to large-scale ‘paperless’ workplace techniques from the late 1990s.

“In the early 2000s, I used to bind 30-40 books per office, especially in banks, where accounts would be maintained for up to seven years for auditing. Car companies would bind automobile manuals for workers in large numbers. One could easily earn ₹4,000 in a day,” says M Kumaravel, a Chennai-based e-book binder.

A binder prepares the protecting covers for a e-book at printing press in Tiruchi.
| Photo Credit: B. Velankanni Raj

 Things have modified now, as a result of no one takes printouts and waits for them to be sure into volumes. “Everything has gone online, or on CDs. The cost of a readymade box file is equal to book binding charges now, so our business has shrunk drastically,” he provides.

A protracted historical past

Book binding is assumed to have been first documented in 100 BC in India, when non secular verses had been inscribed on seasoned palm leaves, numbered and tied along with twine in an accordion model. Covers made of wooden or steel protected the fragile leaf inscriptions inside.

The Mughals launched inventive leather-based binding to India by using grasp binders from Persia, who excelled in creating ornate e-book covers with particular stitching methods. Binders had been an necessary half of library employees throughout the Mughal period.

Tooled leather-based binding with gold foil lettering was widespread in India till cardboard, chart paper and artificial choices introduced down the costs additional in the 1970s and ’80s. The heritage artwork is the mainstay of companies like the Antique Leather Craft retailer in Delhi’s Daryaganj space for over three many years.

Workers in a manual book binding shop in Chawri Bazaar, Old Delhi. Photo: Monica Tiwari/THE HINDU

Workers in a handbook e-book binding store in Chawri Bazaar, Old Delhi. Photo: Monica Tiwari/THE HINDU
| Photo Credit: Monica Tiwari

“Our customers typically want to preserve their books within leather covers, both for their beauty and durability,” says proprietor Aslam Agha, who heads the family-run enterprise.

“Leather binding is a laborious process. Depending on the size of the book and the workmanship involved, it can take us from a week to several months to complete one order,” says Agha, who additionally restores previous books.

Rule of the machines

With handwriting itself changing into a uncommon talent today, stationery binding has understandably misplaced floor to digital means of communication. However the automated mass manufacturing of books has thrived, with indigenously produced binding tools additionally rising as an necessary income earner for the nation.

India exported book-binding and -sewing equipment value $13 million in 2019 to African and European nations, based on United Nations Commodity Trade Statistics Database (UN Comtrade).

Nowhere is the growth extra apparent than in Sivakasi, a small city in Tamil Nadu’s Virudhunagar district. Though it’s typically in the information for its fireworks and security matches trade, Sivakasi can also be thought-about a hub of mass publishing.

With a market reportedly value ₹1,000 crores, Sivakasi has over 600 printing and ancillary industries that make use of over 20,000 individuals. Big print orders led to mechanisation of handbook processes like binding since the 1980s right here.


“While documents generated by institutions like schools, colleges, banks and Government offices still require manual binding, automation of this process has changed commercial printing in a big way,” says V Ganesh Kumar, president of Sivakasi Master Printers Association and director, SFA Print.

As binding machines in the classic of 1980s as much as 2018 are getting used in Sivakasi, studying the right way to use them has largely been a hands-on expertise, says Kumar. “We train diploma and technical institute students to use all the different machines that are used in our bindery, so that they can be comfortable with any level of technology in other units as well. We want them to be skilled so that they can survive as freelance operators on their own,” he says.

SFA Print just lately launched a high-speed binding machine that may produce as much as 40,000 copies per day. “Compared to this, one can bind only around 2,000 copies by hand, and that too, of uneven quality,” he says.

Whether sure by hand or machines, the printed e-book has its personal attraction, says Kumar. “We proceed to print copies of The Bible, Bhagvad Gita and Koran in massive numbers, as a result of readers nonetheless need to purchase them. The distinctive expertise of holding and studying a e-book can’t be replicated by digital units,” he says.

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